Cars racing down river to stop in Natchez

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Courtesy of Hemmings Motor News — A vintage car goes over a old bridge during last year’s race.

Courtesy of Hemmings Motor News — A vintage car goes over an old bridge during last year’s race.

A race down the mighty Mississippi might call to mind classic steamboats laboring on the river, but this month antique and vintage car drivers will race down the Mississippi in a whole other kind of race.

Drivers in the Hemmings Motor News Great Race will leave St. Paul, Minn., on June 22 and weave their way down the Mississippi River toward the Gulf of Mexico through 10 states and cross the river a dozen times before finishing in Mobile, Ala., on June 30.

The drivers will stop in Natchez for lunch after leaving from Vicksburg on June 28.

The Great Race is an antique, vintage and collector car competitive, controlled-speed, endurance road rally on public highways, Director Jeff Stumb said.

It is not a test of top speed but a test of a driver and navigator team’s ability to follow precise course instructions and the car’s and the team’s ability to endure a cross-country trip. The course instructions require the competing teams to drive at or below the posted speed limits at all times.

Drivers in cars as old as a 1913 Premier an a 1916 Hudson Indy car will be competing for a total of $150,000 in prize money, including a $50,000 check for the winning team, Stumb said.

And Natchez spectators will have a chance to get a first-hand look at the cars.

The race is expected to bring up to 100 antique automobiles to North Broadway Street on the bluff for the race’s lunch stop in Natchez.

“When the Great Race pulls into a city it becomes an instant festival,” Stumb said. “Last year we had 25,000 spectators at the start in Traverse City, Mich., and another 15,000 people at lunch in Fairport, N.Y., on our way to having 250,000 people see the Great Race during our 20 city stops.”

The cars will arrive after noon at one-minute intervals for more than an hour and a half and stay for an hour each to allow spectators to visit with the participants and to look at the cars.

After leaving Natchez the cars will head south to Baton Rouge for the seventh of nine overnight stops, eight of which are on the Mississippi River or the Gulf of Mexico.

Stumb said the Great Race could not imagine a race down the Mississippi without a stop in Natchez.

“The city is as iconic as the Great Race and the river,” he said.